When was the last time you took a cold shower? For me, it was this past Saturday and… WOW! It had been a very long time since I had a cold shower and most likely my last one was not voluntary either. In short, my hot water heater decided to stop working early Saturday morning and BAM! Of course, Murphy’s Law requires that hot water tanks, AC, plumbing and electrical issues happen after normal business hours because that is when the rates are highest to get the issue resolved. In my case, I was not willing to endure 2 more days of cold showers to save a few bucks so I found a plumber who could replace the hot water tank that day. His price seemed ‘reasonable’ given it was Saturday, so I agreed. He came out early that afternoon and got to work.
In the time it took me to clean my pool, he was done replacing my hot water tank. Not only was I impressed with his efficiency but even more excited at the prospect of a nice hot shower after cleaning the pool. He let me know he was done and asked me to turn on the water to be sure it got warm. So, I did. And I waited… and waited… and waited – to no avail. There was no hot water to be had. He got his meter out and blamed it on my electrical system. He told me I needed an electrician and likely a new breaker. He said he would call me later to collect payment once the electrician worked his magic and I could confirm that the new hot water tank worked.
By now, it is well into Saturday afternoon. I found an electrician who could come Saturday night – still optimistic that I would get a hot shower by day’s end. Apparently, it wasn’t meant to be as he was not actually able to make it until Sunday morning. It didn’t take him long to access the wires and let me know that the plumber just didn’t have it hooked up properly. He spent a few minutes connecting the wires to the tank and Voilà! Within minutes the warm water was flowing again. Thank God.
So, what does this have to do with financial planning? More than you might think at first impression. As I enjoyed a long, hot shower I thought of the parallels with those who need financial and investment advice but put it if off until there is some type of emergency, or worse, forever. Three things I learned from my hot water tank experience that are true for those in need of financial and investment advice are:
- Having a relationship before you really need it is key. Waiting to look for a financial planner until there is a pressing deadline or someone dies is not ideal. No one makes their best decisions when their world is turned upside down. The wise thing to do is to find an advisor before there is a real urgency and begin to develop rapport, trust and familiarity with your unique situation. That relationship will make them much more likely to take your call when you really need it. I have many stories of folks reacting to a sales pitch rather than making sound decisions deliberately with a trusted advisor.
- You want an advisor who is experienced, credentialed, and working solely for you. While there are many well-intentioned advisors out there, they are not all equal. My plumber was likeable and worked efficiently. Just one problem. He couldn’t get the job done. What that looks like in the financial world is someone so concerned to earn the next commission that they miss important details or the things that you did not say. It looks like just selling investments and overlooking estate planning, insurance, tax and other critical pieces of your unique financial situation. Not all plumbers are created equally… and not all financial planners are either!
- You want a financial planner who has an extended network of professionals – who are also experienced and have been vetted – to ensure that you can get the job done. Had my plumber had a relationship with an electrician – either in-house or in the community who could have come out and spent 15 minutes to get my hot water tank going, I would not have had to wait until the next day and could have avoided a lot of frustration. In the financial world this looks like mortgage & insurance professionals, attorneys, and senior housing experts who can assist through the various stages and seasons of planning. No one can do everything, so having a team of allied professionals who are trustworthy can save a lot of time and frustration and make your life easier.
Hopefully, you can learn from my experience. While a freezing cold shower is not something I look forward to, it is also a first-world problem and not likely to change the trajectory of my life nor my family’s. However, buying crummy investments, overpaying for crappy insurance, and ignoring tax-saving planning opportunities can make a real difference in your quality of life, your financial standing, and even the legacy that you leave behind. Take the time to find a fiduciary advisor who is experienced and make the investment to get to know them so that you are not left looking for financial help at a time when you are under duress or have a time crunch. If you find the right advisor, I believe you will be grateful you did.